China has considered to build a complete fleet of the six-engine heavy-duty plane Antonov 225 (AN-225) which can carry up to four battle tanks.
The China’s plan has definite implications for India in terms of lightning deployment of men and material, experts were quoted as saying by The Asian Age Friday.
Just last week, China’s Aerospace Industry Corporation of China (AICC) had inked an agreement with Ukraine’s Antonov company to jointly produce such planes in two stages.
“The first stage of this talk includes construction of the second modernised AN 225 Mriya at Antonov company and delivery of this aircraft to AICC. The second stage is organisation of the joint series production of the AN-225 in China under licence of Antonov company.” Antonov’s website said. The first plane will be delivered in 2019.
“Such a big aircraft is not for the Air Force, it is basically meant for the ground forces. Having said that, China is a very large nation with bigger adversaries and its threats are multifaceted. But such aircraft can definitely come in very handy against India too,” major defence analyst Ajay Lele said.
However it is too early to conclude as one has to wait to see for what purpose the aircraft will be used. “But the plane will surely offer merits for smart and swift movement of troops and war material to the border areas,” Mr Lele added.
“China in all possibility will have airfields or is planning to build big airfields to land the AN 225.” a serving Army official said on condition of anonymity.
The first and sole AN-225 in existence is out on rent and now transports heavy-duty cargo like gas and wind turbines or to fly out military supplies for Nato forces based in West Asia.
The plane was built in 1988 to carry the Soviet Buran, a reusable spaceplane, on its back. The plan was put into the backburner after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “China has a fetish for things big and also to showcase their military’s capability. This AN-225 plan is a part of that,” said Brigadier Rumel Dahiya (Retd) of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis.
The six-engine AN 225 weighs 640 ton. It is 84 meters in length and has a wingspan of 88 meters. It has a top speed of 850 kmph. It can carry upto 250 tons and is powered by the powerful Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan, which produces 23 tons of thrust.
An AN 225 is big enough to fit in and fly four tanks, helicopters, light fighter aircraft, big numbers of paratroopers with other heavy artillery, missiles and missile launchers.